Children all develop at their own paces, especially when it comes to speech and language skills. Some will be reading in kindergarten, while others may still be struggling to pronounce simple sounds. Although there is a wide variety in childhood development, a child grappling with prominent speech and/or language skills may have a problem.
Speech Disorders in Children
The following is a list of the most common speech disorders found in children, however the list does not cover all speech disorders.
Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS)
CAS is a motor speech disorder in which a child struggles to speak. If your child has CAS, the messages that usually go from the brain to the mouth to make sounds, do not go through correctly. Children with CAS may not be able to move their lips or tongue correctly to make the sounds needed to form words. CAS can also be referred to as verbal dyspraxia or developmental apraxia. A child with CAS needs treatment in order to make progress and have their speech improve over time .
Dysarthria is a speech disorder caused by weakness of the muscles in the face, lips, tongue, throat, and the muscles we use for breathing. A child with dysarthria will struggle to communicate verbally, because of the weak muscles. Dysarthria occurs following brain damage, and can range from mild to severe. Dysarthria can also occur alongside other speech and language disorders, for example, apraxia or aphasia, making it even more difficult for someone to express their thoughts, feelings, and emotions .
Stuttering makes it difficult for a person to communicate effectively, because they get “stuck” on certain words and sounds. Children who stutter often feel very uncomfortable or self-conscious, knowing that they are having difficulty speaking. A person who stutters often has one or more of three types of disfluencies — blocks, prolongations, and repetitions. Blocks happen when someone has trouble getting a word out or has to pause for extended periods of time in between words in the same sentence. Prolongations occur when someone stretches out a sound for a long time. Repetitions occur when someone repeats parts of words, struggling to get the entire word out . Stuttering can also become more prevalent with stress or excitement, making it even harder to produce words fluently. For example, a child who has a stutter may get stressed saying something in front of the class, making their stutter even worse.
Speech Sound Disorders
Speech sound disorders are very common, especially in young children. Often times, children will say certain sounds wrong as they begin learning to talk, especially sounds that are hard to pronounce at first. For example, a child could say “wabbit” instead of “rabbit” because the R sound is generally harder to learn than the W sound. Most children will be able to say all sounds by 8 years old, according to ASHA, and a child who doesn’t say these sounds by the expected age could have a speech sound disorder .
Language Disorders in Children
Preschool Language Disorders
Not all children learn language skills at the same pace. Some can speak very early on, while others struggle to talk at all. Speech and language disorders can begin before a child enters school. A preschool aged child is defined as one who is between the ages of 3 to 5 and has not yet started kindergarten. A child who has problems with learning words or saying full sentences could have a language disorder. Language disorders can generally be resolved at an early age with the help of a Speech-Language Pathologist.
Children with learning disabilities often struggle with reading, writing, spelling, and succeeding in school. Typically, a child will have a learning disability from birth. A child with a learning disability can have a variety of language problems, which if untreated can lead to later reading, writing, math, and/or social problems. However, something extremely important to note is that learning disabilities have nothing to do with how smart a child is, but rather with the way a child learns. For example, a very common learning disability is dyslexia. People with dyslexia often mix up letters or numbers that look similar, like “b and d” or “6 and 9”. If a child has dyslexia, it doesn’t mean that their intelligence is below average, it just explains that they learn differently and may need some extra help.
Often times, a child can be shy and not want to talk to strangers or people that they have just met, and would prefer to speak when they are more comfortable. However, some children refuse to talk at certain times whatsoever. This is called selective mutism. A child with this language disorder may choose not to talk at all at school or with certain friends, making it frustrating for every party involved. Selective mutism can be caused by an anxiety problem, shyness, embarrassment, or the need to be alone .
Childhood Medical Conditions
Cleft Lip and Palate
Cleft lip and palate are one of the most common birth defects in the United States. A “cleft” is a split or a divide, and happens before a child is born. Children can have cleft lip, cleft palate, or both. A cleft lip could show a divide on one or both sides of the lip, or could be in the upper jaw or gum. A cleft palate is an opening in the roof of the mouth, either on one or both sides. Children with cleft lip and palate may wrestle with speech and feeding problems . A Speech-Language Pathologist will follow a child’s development to make sure that their speech forms as clearly as possible, and that they are eating and swallowing properly, after the surgery to correct the lip or palate defect.
Author: Emily Libowitz
 “Childhood Apraxia of Speech.” American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/Childhood-Apraxia-of-Speech.
 “Dysarthria.” American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/dysarthria.
 “Stuttering.” American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/stuttering.
 “Speech Sound Disorders.” American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/Speech-Sound-Disorders.
 “Selective Mutism.” Averican Speech-Language-Hearing Association, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/Selective-Mutism.
 “Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate.” American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/CleftLip.